Ban Dainagon Ekotoba (伴大納言絵詞)

Ban Dainagon Ekotoba or Tomo no Dainagon Ekotoba is a narrative picture scroll depicting the Otenmon Incident at the end of the Heian period. It is also called "Ban Dainagon Emaki." It is Japan's national treasure. It is counted as one of the four most prominent narrative picture scrolls along with "Genji Monogatari Emaki" (Illustrated handscrolls of the Tale of Genji), "Shigisan Engi Emaki" (picture scroll of the burning of Mt. Shigi), and "Choju Jinbutsu Giga" (scrolls of frolicking animals and humans). It is believed to have been drawn by Mitsunaga TOKIWA.

The Idemitsu Museum (in Tokyo) bought it from a descendant of a landlord in Kohama in the Wakasa Province (now Fukui Prefecture) for 3.2 billion yen in 1982.


Emperor Goshirakawa is thought to have commissioned this scroll and the "Nenchugyoji Emaki" (picture scroll dipicting annual events and celebrations) to Mitsunaga TOKIWA 300 years after the Otenmon Incident. The year of creation is not certain and although the year 1177 is sometimes conjectured, it has never become definitive.
Although the introductory words are lost, the content can be supplemented by referring to Uji Shui Monogatari (a collection of the Tales from Uji) story volume 10, 'Burning of the Oten-mon Gate by Dainagon (chief councilor of state) BAN.'

The drawing on the scroll lays out the story of the conspiracy of Dainagon TOMO no Yoshio in the Otenmon Incident and is consisted of the following scenes.
The Oten-mon Gate being put on fire and burning
Sadaijin (minister of the left) MINAMOTO no Makoto arrested for a crime he had not committed, the grieving women of the palace
The real culprit being exposed through the quarreling of a workman's child
The kebiishi (a police and judicial chief) and his men capturing TOMO no Yoshio

The pictures provide an outstanding depiction of the people of the Heian period and is also an invaluable material on the activities of kebiishi (although the people drawn are thought to be from the time of the period of cloistered governments). This picture scroll was made during the Goshirakawa Insei period (period of cloistered governments) in the last part of the Heian period, and used to be kept by the Sakai family in Wakasa Province along with Kibidaijin Nitto Emaki (scroll depicting the visit of Minister Kibi to Tang China), which now belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This scroll is valued as one of the most outstanding Japanese picture scrolls along with Shigisan Engi Emaki.


The depiction of the people and the flames are outstanding and the dynamic construct is highly valued.

The scene of the children fighting, which led to the revelation of the truth of the incident, uses the 'Iji-dozu-ho technique' (showing scenes of incidents that happened at different times in one picture) and is often introduced in the textbooks of Japanese history.
The following three scenes are combined in one picture:

Dainagon TOMO no Yoshio's suito (bureaucrat in charge of accounts) rushes to where his child and a worker's child are quarreling,
The suito kicks the worker's child. The suito's wife takes away her child.

The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been using the most modern techniques such as X-ray florescent analysis and high resolution digital image analysis to conduct scientific analyses of the scroll since September 2004 and has found that a very pure and high quality paint (most possibly imported from abroad) was used and that there are no outline sketches for the people and flames which means that they were drawn in one go. A full analysis of the scroll is likely to take several more years.

[Original Japanese]